Pete and I headed up the A12 towards Abberton Reservoir passing a single Waxwing in Harold Hill on the way perched on top of some bright red Dogwood. Goldeneye were everywhere and many were displaying but there was no sign of the Long-tailed Duck. Two Goosander and 12 Ruddy Duck were noted before we headed for East Mersea.
We were after the single Shorelark at Mersea Stone and with luck found it at the very end quietly grovelling in the loose company of about 30 Sanderlings. A Essex lifer to boot and a very smart individual. A male Merlin dashed across and with a squall coming in we made our way to Fingringhoe Wick for lunch. The tide was all the way out by now with all the usual waders spread out across the mud. A ringtail Hen Harrier and female Merlin were the only raptors seen out across Langenhoe Ranges.
The Chase Pine Bunting was still with his Yellowhammer buddies and the six LEOs were still napping.
Back to the Chase once again, this time with Pete and the Pine Bunt performed incredibly well in the bright sunshine with 16 Yellowhammers. A brightly plumaged singing Chiffchaff was quite probably a migrant rather than one of our drab wintering ones.
On to Duckwood where 12 Hawfinches performed brilliantly and some were even singing before we made our way up to Hanningfield Reservoir where 16 Goldeneye and 84 Wigeon were counted from the causeway but the Ruddy Duck flock was on the south pool and 70 were counted including many bubbling males in full display. A ‘typically polite, warm hearted’ water company official then threw us off for trespassing…
A busy weekend moving ponds around the garden at home resulted in sore hands, an aching back, a small financial gain, a Coal Tit, four Chaffinches, a Greenfinch with a white tail and a garden tick in the shape of a single Greylag over with Canadas!
An after Poly visit to Hall Marsh resulted in no Little Ringed Plovers but a pair of Greylag were notable along with nine Snipe, three Goldeneye, 200 Siskin, Green Woodpecker and two Willow Tits. [Eds: Just remember that… Greylag notable… Willow Tit casual mention]
I picked up Nigel Pepper in Ongar at 10am for a day out in Essex and after a look at his amazing music gig images and re-identifying a poorly rescued Meadow Pipit in the aviary as a Skylark, [Eds: no errant Catharus thrushes were noted…] we headed across country to a windy Hanningfield Reservoir. Fifty Ruddy Ducks were counted and three Sand Martins became my earliest ever.
On to Abberton where despite the wind and cold we did manage to find and count 212 Goldeneye, 14 Ruddy Ducks, 500 Wigeon, four Bewick’s Swans, 12 Russian White-fronts, two male Pintail, two Oystercatchers, 42 Dunlin, a Ruff and a flock of 343 Fieldfare.
It was far too windy to try Mersea so we sat it out at Fingringhoe and despite being high tide the Colne only offered two Great Crested Grebes and 32 Red-breasted Mergansers. A smart Ringed Plover and two Avocet were seen amongst other species and a ringtail Hen Harrier quartered.
We stopped at Horseford Bridge on the way home where Nigel’s pair of Little Owls duly obliged. Such perpetually shocked looking faces!
With winds in the south-west Pete and I headed to Dungeness in the hope of some migrants. We were to be disappointed with just a White Wagtail and a single Med Gull for our troubles. The reserve and ARC were dead so we headed to Scotney which was more productive with 2m and 3f Scaup, a Russian White-front and two flying Long-tailed Ducks which were a welcome year tick.
Back east now to Folkestone with me dozing en route and awake again somewhere just outside town where we stopped for lunch with a 2nd year Med Gull drifting through on cue. And only briefly stopping for a ready salted crisp. The drizzle came and went and was fortunately in the latter phase when we got to Copt Point where 22 Med Gulls of various ages milled about [Eds: This was the Med Gull hot spot at the time].
North now to Stodmarsh for the first time this year. We walked all the way around to the flooded meadows at Grove Ferry and scanned around for the Glossy Ibis. It was a lovely sunny evening and so we watched the field and hoped it would appear. There were lots of ducks and Herons but no Ibis while a lone ringtail Hen Harrier hunted along the back and a flight of 32 Mute Swans made a strange sight.
At 4.20pm we were beckoned back to our original spot by another birder and I have to admit to deserting Pete and running back to the pools where the Ibis was happily on show. For once the flying hocky stick was a richly coloured proper Ibis decked out in chestnuts, bronzes and greens. A male Hen Harrier was patrolling the sallows and a second ringtail dropped in to round up the day. [Eds: My journal does not say whether Pete caught me up but I suspect he did]
My last look at the Chase Pine Bunting as it left two days later. Despite the rain it was feeding in the shelter of some bushes with the Yellowhammer flock and a solitary Corn Bunting. A Water Pipit was a superb find though and Jackdaw was also a notable find that morning. After a sugarless cup of tea in the portacabin I headed for home in the peeing rain.
At last a Med Gull on Chingford Rugby Club fields. I check then on my way to Poly and was pleased to find a 1st year plodding around.
Roy W came home from Aberystwyth this weekend for the Pine Bunting but of course it had moved on. A quick whizz round produced three Long-eared Owls, a Corn Bunting once again and a noticeable fall of 30 smart, fresh Meadow Pipits with a single Tree Pipit amongst them.
Aldwick on the outskirts of Bognar Regis was the destination for Pete and I as we staked out some gardens for the first ever wintering UK Pallas’s Warbler. The bird was frequenting small well vegetated cul-de-sac gardens and so its appearances were erratic but we got lucky and it popped up after just five minutes allowing superb scope views. A well marked bird but oddly brighter on one side than the other. It was hyperactive and appeared to be on piece of rather stretchy elastic. It called once – a loud ‘too-eek’ and was the first time that I have ever heard one call. Feeling chuffed at seeing this tricky bird so quickly we packed up and headed west towards Church Norton passing a ringtail Hen Harrier over the car as we left.
At Ferry Pool a Little Ringed Plover was sheltering of of the fierce wind and probably wishes it had never left Africa and three Wheatears similarly found their way onto my year list. Church Norton was even windier but this did not prevent three Chiffchaffs from heartily singing. Waders were few but included Grey Plovers and a Blackwit in summer plumage already. The sea was rough but only held Mallard, Mergansers and an obliging Slavonian Grebe. Lunch with a bald Robin in the car park and then to Selsey Bill where as usual we saw nothing. With that we came home across the hilly Sussex and Surrey countryside.
The Slack at the Chase was fairly quiet with 16 Shovelers, 12 Teal and 15 Snipe and the Meadow Pipit flock was still around. There were now five singing Chiffchaffs and the greyish ‘tristis’ type bird was also still around.
28th March- 3rd April:
Girvan Geology Field Trip – South-west Scotland:
The long coach journey up produced a few goodies including three Peregrines, Buzzards and Ravens and by travelling along the coast I added two Red-throated Divers, two Whooper Swans, Curlews, Oystercatchers and a female Merlin!
Gannets and Eiders were seen every day and Black Guillemot and Black-throated Divers were useful year ticks too. Other jaunts out produced Peregrine, Common Scoters, Dippers, Crossbills, Whimbrel (1st April), Wheatear (1st April), Swallow (30th March) and a male Ring Ouzel (31st March) with a total of 92 species logged and five new year birds in total.
[Eds: This was my very first Poly/Uni field trip and probably only my third time ever away from home. It was great and actually awakened my interest in the landscape around me. Being able to bird and learn stuff at the same time suited me down to the ground. I can remember naive nights in the hotel bar and being introduced to (but avoiding playing) beer drinking games, a bloated sheep on a beach that one of the lads – Dom I think – leapt onto thinking it was a rock, to searching for local Agate pebbles on a beach, lots of cold rain and the volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig offshore in the Firth of Clyde]